Hopefully, when you sit down to a meal with others, your table manners are better than this guy's.
In the blogosphere right now, you'll come across many blogs that talk at length about men's clothing style, grooming, appearance, and how these things contribute to our being/becoming/conducting ourselves as gentlemen. But there is one hugely important and related topic that no one seems to mention on the many blogs that I read daily. What is it, you ask?
Why, table manners of course. Shock! Horror! Gasp! Yep, I said it. And I'm making no apologies. Table manners should be as much a part of our personal style as our attire and grooming, if not more so. Average guys ought to keep that in mind. Even when we are at home with the door closed. Newsflash! Our close family is just as deserving of polite behavior as people we work with, ride public transport next to, or pass on the street.
However, because table manners are, perhaps incorrectly, associated with upbringing and/or perceived socio-economic class, they are an explosive issue, prompting accusations of snobbery and arguments about elitism. Regardless of your position, basic table manners are clearly a challenge for many these days based on what you'll observe in most any restaurant or dinner gathering in which people from different backgrounds come together socially.
Sadly, lots of people labor under the delusion that manners in general are stiff, overly formal, old-fashioned, and outmoded with no place in modern society. And if that's your attitude, fine. I can't change it. But let me make a few relevant points. We aren't talking about state occasions, bowing to our social superiors, curtseying to the Queen, shrimp forks, or finger bowls here. Just common decency and ensuring that we remain pleasant to have around. We are not cavemen, dogs, or farm animals eating from troughs after all. Moreover, actions speak louder than words. And just like our attire, our behavior speaks volumes about us and conveys a great deal about where we come from, and the kind of person we are beneath the fancy clothing, excessive education, certifications, and impressive-sounding titles.
Of course we want to make a good first impression with the various people we meet and those we work with. But we also want to maintain that positive initial image over time. Likewise, we want to remain attractive, likeable, and desirable to our chosen mates and partners. Why risk spoiling that with crude behavior? Finally, if we have them, we want to set solid examples of decent behavior for our children. We want to teach them to be gentlefolk with good grooming and at least a modicum of refinement and sophistication. Basic table manners are a part of all that like it or not.
So, without belaboring the point any further, here are a dozen tips to remember that will go a long way in helping us average guys to be pleasant dining companions -- and more gentlemanly -- whether we are around the family table, having a working lunch with colleagues, or meeting that special person's parents for the very first time with a sit-down dinner as part of the equation. Here we go:
1) Above all, use the words, "please," thank you," and (if necessary) "excuse me" liberally. Don't forget it!
2) Sit up in your chair with both feet on the floor in front of you. Don't bend one of your knees and rest your foot on the seat of the chair with your bent knee at face level.
3) Keep your elbows off the table and your napkin in your lap during the meal. Oh, and you might want to use it to wipe your lips gently when necessary.
4) Ask for things to be passed to you. Don't reach.
5) Cut your food -- or if eating a roll or bread, break it -- into bite-sized pieces. Don't force huge hunks of food into your mouth. Ick!
6) No one will take your food away from you, so don't slump over your plate with an arm around it, picking through your food with your fork.
7) Slow down! Don't gobble your food as fast as you can. This is not a pie or buffalo wing eating contest at a summertime county fair.
8) Don't slurp, burp, or make other noises at the table. Chewing with your mouth closed might help.
9) Likewise, avoid (like the plague) talking with your mouth full. No one wants to see that. And just imagine how embarrassed you would be if you spit out bits of food in the direction of a dining companion. Chew it up, swallow, and take a drink before you say anything.
10) Remember not to gesture or point at others with your eating utensils. We're nearing the end of the meal here, guys, so stay with me just a bit longer, guys.
11) When you finish, don't wipe up your plate with a piece of roll or bread. Just place your silverware to one side on your plate (the right side in the 10 o-clock-4 o'clock position), and leave any remaining food residue where it is. By the same token, DON'T lick your utensils clean.
12) Finally, please don't pick food from your teeth with a toothpick or finger while you are still at the table. I actually witnessed a young woman engage in the latter yesterday in the dining commons of my small college where I was holding late-semester meetings with students. Ugh! If you find yourself with food stuck between two teeth, excuse yourself from the table for a few moments to take care of the problem quietly in the restroom.
An extra special Bonus Tip to keep in mind. . .
While at the table, there is certain subject matter (illnesses, certain surgeries, anything having to do with the bathroom, or bodily functions, etc. ) that is best left for another time. If you absolutely need to discuss it at all. Talking about thing like that during meals is crass and will probably put at least one other person at the table with you off of their food. Our mothers raised us better than that, and we are no longer 10-year old boys at summer camp trying to show our friends how gross we can be. Hopefully, we have left that behind by now.
So, there you are. Make the pointers above habitual, live and die by them, and you will be well on your way to becoming an extremely pleasant dining companion in most situations you'll encounter. And, as I indicated previously, if you take issue with what I've said here and persist in in ignoring it, that's fine. We are certainly permitted our different points of view. But there is probably little danger of us sitting down to enjoy a meal together anytime soon.